I met the folks behind Otto’s Cassava Flour while attending the Paleo f(x) conference in April, and during our chat, they challenged me to make a pizza crust using their flour. Never one to turn a challenge down, I accepted, and here’s what I came up with. I found that a combination of their flour, tapioca starch, and potato starch created a pizza crust that is light and crisp, and still a little chewy like my original pizza crust.

Cassava flour differs from tapioca starch, despite the fact that they come from the same plant. While tapioca starch is the extracted starch from the root of the yuca plant, cassava flour is peeled and baked yuca root, so it retains the plant’s fiber as well as the starch. Tapioca starch behaves like cornstarch, but cassava flour adds body to dishes, mimicking wheat flour in dishes like this tortilla recipe from Forks and Beans.

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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

For a dairy free variation, check out my Flatbread recipe.

Like most residents of planet Earth, I’m pizza crazy. I’d like to say that my love affair started with those pesky Ninja Turtles, but I have a feeling that I was addicted well before the heroes in a half shell became popular. When adopting Paleo, I was probably worried about a lack of pizza the most, and after re-introducing dairy I tried all sorts of things, from frozen GF crusts to eggplant pizzas. Finally, I hunkered down and developed a gluten and grain free pizza crust of my own, and after several failed attempts, I’m happy to say that you will love this pizza.

Do I really need to provide a food history for pizza? Okay, since you asked so nicely. Pizza is a food first traced to Ancient Greece, when they took bread and covered it with oil and cheese (this is also the base for Pita bread). Italy is credited for adding tomatoes to pizza following their introduction from the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries. Interestingly, the combination of tomatoes and cheese wasn’t popular for hundreds of years, until the famous Pizza Margherita (tomatoes, cheese, and basil) incident – wherein the combination was served to Queen Margherita in 1889 to represent the Italian flag.

Pizzerias existed in the United States at the turn of the century, but it was only popular with Italian immigrants. Soldiers returning from the European campaign of World War II raved about pizza, and it became the sensation it is now almost overnight.

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As summer hits (it’s 102 degrees as I type this!), no one’s really in the mood to cook an extravagant creation. I get that. That’s why I have simple, easy recipes like my little eggplant pizzas to get through the scorching days. There’s not a whole lot to this recipe, but it’s the perfect little distraction that seems to be most appealing when we don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

In general I don’t like using the oven while it’s hot out, but these little babies cook up relatively fast so I don’t mind them so much.

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I’ve touched a little on gluten-free pizza crusts in this post, but I thought it was time to explain how I make pizza at home.

This recipe uses an Against the Grain 12″ pizza shell, which has an impressively simple ingredients list: tapioca starch, milk, eggs, canola oil, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, and parmesan cheese. Simply put, if you allow dairy in your diet, this pizza crust is close enough to the real thing that you can easily ward off pizza cravings without any lingering guilt.

I also prefer to use 8oz blocks of fresh mozzarella cheese for practical reasons. I’ve found that using bags of shredded cheese never seems to work out for me, because I end up with too much or not enough cheese. Cutting fresh mozzarella is easy and takes all of the guesswork out of this simple dish. Plus, natural and fresh mozzarella is a lot easier to find than good shredded cheese anyway.

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If you think that gluten-free breads taste good, I would say that you haven’t tasted gluten-free bread. Seriously, for a guy that’s not a huge fan of bread in the first place, gluten-free varieties are never fun: they’re either dense beyond belief or have a strange consistency. For that very reason, I’ve been leery of all gluten-free substitutes. However, pizza deprivation can drive a man to do some crazy things, and lately I’ve tried my hand at gluten-free pizza.

I realize that there are Paleo pizza crusts out there that are made with ground nuts, but I don’t have the courage to try one of those yet. Maybe later. I’m also sure that there are plenty of homemade crust recipes on the internet but I figure for now I’ll leave it up to the experts.

First, a word on how to cook a proper pizza at home. I’m not a big fan of tomato chunks in my red sauce, so I will buy pre-made pizza sauce or I will blend a spaghetti sauce if I’m in a pinch. Sauce from scratch is always an option, but I like to consider pizza a quick meal so I don’t like to put too much work into it. Jarred sauce will generally taste better if you simmer it for 30 minutes to reduce acidity before applying it to the crust. We also like to use a pesto sauce; we brush melted butter on the crust and then spoon pesto sauce on.

Cheese placement is essential! You want to evenly spread grated cheese (picture above) or lay out slices of mozzarella (picture after the break). When the pizza is fully cooked, you will want to broil the top to bubble and brown the cheese. Let it rest for five minutes before slicing.

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